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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 23, 2013 8:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: The GD and Indian Music

Micah just posted this, from David Gan's 5 Dead Songs You Should Know ...

>"Playing in the Band" (Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack) – A ten-beat musical phrase borrowed from Alla Rakha, developed by Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist Bob Weir ...

I knew vaguely that Mickey was influenced by Indian polyrhythm, but didn't know much detail or the extent to which they were really pioneers that way.

Anyway, I googled Alla Rakha and PITB and found this book, The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, which goes into it in a ton of detail. Lots of other stuff in the book on the GD, too, it seems. (Speaking of GD-related scholarship.)

edit -- Here's my experiment with turning a big garbly clunky url into one of those newfangled "tiny url" things. Hopefully it'll point to the right page (84):

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2013-02-24 04:37:58

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 23, 2013 10:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The GD and Indian Music

That's a good chapter & interview.

Blair Jackson wrote a little piece a while ago about Ravi Shankar's influence on the Dead....only to be reminded by commenters that no, Shankar actually didn't have any direct influence:

Nonetheless, Phil did write that the accelerating jam in Viola Lee was influenced by their listening to North Indian music, and that was well before Hart appeared.
There's also the issue of "indirect influence," in that the Dead would also have been listening to music more directly Indian-influenced - like Coltrane, or 8 Miles High, or East-West - and following that trend. "Raga rock" was kind of a small mini-genre of the day...

The interview with Mickey in that book makes much of Dark Star as being Indian-based - one could also make a case for it being modal-jazz-based. (I prefer to think of it as the Dead's own genre.)
Nonetheless, it's notable that the Dead used a tamboura on the Dark Star single - when it was still just a song, long before it started to get jammed out. Apparently they wanted that Indian suggestion in the studio version. (Or were just hopping on the '66/67 trend for using Indian instruments in pop songs...)

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 23, 2013 11:39pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The GD and Indian Music

It makes a good case for that being one part of their complicated "group DNA" (Blair Jackson's term). As musicians with wide-ranging and esoteric interests (particularly Phil, so it's interesting it was his record) it makes sense they'd hear Indian music and be intrigued by the inner workings rather than the externals. So they'd get into the idea of "the drone" and play around with rhythms and time sense, not just say, "let's add a sitar!"

In terms of its lasting "DNA" influence, my husband is South Asian, and he's remarked that the GD reminds him of Indian music. I can't recall what first got him to say that, but it's definitely something in the sound of the jams. He couldn't put his finger on why exactly that was; I always thought it was that he sensed some kind of polyrhythm, but now I think it's probably more than that.

Obviously just one of the many influences they absorbed and processed in their own way -- and it's not like they were hopping a plane to India like the Beatles or following gurus -- but pretty interesting.

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Poster: midnightcarousel Date: Feb 23, 2013 8:47pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: The GD and Indian Music

Wow! Had no idea it was from a different source.

This sheds more light on the "main ten" jams, which were so tribal and mystic sounding.